Denis McDonough, President Biden’s nominee for secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), plans to make cybersecurity “a key priority” if confirmed, along with IT modernization efforts and expansion of broadband services.

“The range of cyber threats that we confront as a country is only growing,” McDonough said during his confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee on Jan. 27.

“Having cybersecurity, cyber hygiene front and center, not only for the major programmatic efforts at the department but also for individuals in the workforce at the department, will have to be a fundamental priority for the next Secretary. And if that’s me, I would intend to make cybersecurity a key priority,” McDonough added.

McDonough also emphasized that VA’s legacy IT systems need to have a “focus on cybersecurity and cyber hygiene across the enterprise.” If nominated, he assured the committee he would take the lead on the agency’s IT modernization efforts.

“Effectively performing on the modernization efforts will allow VA to not only increase security and increase performance and outcomes for vets but will also reduce costs over time of these legacy systems,” McDonough said. “Executing on the modernization has to be a key priority.”

McDonough, former chief of staff under President Obama, also promised that he would work with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and other Federal agencies to make broadband access “more universally available,” and expand telehealth opportunities to rural and tribal communities.

The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee will vote on McDonough’s nomination on Tuesday, Feb. 2. If approved, the nomination would then go to the Senate floor for a final confirmation vote.

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.